Systema Solar
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Systema Solar
Systema Solar
Chusma Records (

From the booming, echoing pop radio announcer opening shtick, the Systema Solar audiovisual collective reveals itself as a heavyweight purveyor of the driving Afro-Colombian dancehall music of the Caribbean coast. Pikos (local vernacular for a street sound system) DJs are masters of verbena, a riotous hybrid of cumbia, airy champeta, brassy porro, drum’n’bass, hip hop, beats, call-and-response vocals, found sound and DJ audio blasters. Systema Solar made a big splash at Austin’s March 2010 SXSW festival, followed by a well-received summer European tour. “Bienvenidos” (welcome) is the album liftoff, playing off a raucous street procession against some patently extraterrestrial allusions, staking claim to the music’s universal reach. A piece like “El majagual”­beats and satirical in-your-face vocals layered over a soaring, haunting champeta woodwind riff­is emblematic of the music’s visceral, infectious appeal, with an enthralling, abandoned fuzztone wall of sound.

Literally, the champeta is a local curve-bladed machete, the lethal all-purpose tool of Afro-Colombian rural laborers from the Cartagena region. Historically, the Caribbean coast produced countless palenques, combative strongholds of the many who escaped slavery, communities that have survived proudly into the present. Champeta’s very nomenclature speaks to the music’s swaggering belligerence, the ever-present threat of violent uprising. Another name for the genre is terapia criolla (creole therapy), a clear indictment and joyous repudiation of the racial inequities historically inscribed in social relations throughout the African Diaspora. The folk roots are deep here, but this is thoroughly contemporary music whose power to censure inequality and injustice, to instruct and inspire, to shake the rafters, is equal to any of its militant New World cousins. - Michael Stone

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